Training Tips from Teen Champs

10 NPC Teen Nationals competitors who went pro share their best advice for young bodybuilders.


Bill Comstock

1987 Teen Nationals class winner Chris Cormier trains 2012–14 overall champ Cody Montgomery. 

For most of its history, the Teen Nationals was a fertile proving ground—the place to spot genetic potential and an aptitude for heavy metal and high protein. Eight-time Mr. O Lee Haney won it before the formation of the NPC in 1982, and Shawn Ray, Chris Cormier, Jay Cutler, and Branch Warren were among the class or overall champs from 1985-94. Then came...nothing. The nine years from 1995-2003 have yet to produce a single pro. Since then, however, the Teen Nats has regained its previous status. Eight competitors over the 10-year span of 2004-13 have already qualified for pro. We spoke to 10 former Teen Nationals competitors— five who won the overall and five who didn’t, but all of whom eventually earned IFBB Pro League status—to get their best advice for the next generation. 


“Bodybuilding is, of course, a really individualistic sport, but to succeed you need supportive people in your life. To tell you the truth, at first my parents thought bodybuilding was really weird. They didn’t tell me not to do it, but they probably would’ve been happier if I’d done something else. But they’ve always been supportive of me, and when they saw the success I had at 15 or 16, they came around. And there have been some people in bodybuilding who’ve been in my corner, including Chris Cormier. You need a support system to reach your full potential. If people are negative about what you’re doing, those are probably people you don’t need in your life. Surround yourself with positive people and learn from those who’ve come before you.”

At 17, 18, and 19, Cody Montgomery won the Teen Nationals overall three straight years in 2012–14, the first as a light-heavy and the last two as a heavyweight. Eleven days before his 21st birthday, he won the 2015 USA Championships, and he made his pro debut at 21 last year.


“Learn as much as you can from the guys who went before you. Pick people you want to emulate your physique and career after. That’s what I did. I learned it at the University of Gold’s Gym Venice from Gary Strydom, Robby Robinson, and Mike Christian. Also, once you get a quality physique, don’t sit there and wait for things to come to you. Go after it. Go get publicity, whether on the Internet or in person. Come to Los Angeles. Post progress photos on Instagram. Ask the champs for advice. Get your face and your name out there. Don’t be shy.”

After winning the light-heavy class in the 1987 Teen Nationals, Chris Cormier went on to have an iconic IFBB Pro League career. He won 11 pro titles and finished third in the Mr. Olympia twice (1999, 2002).


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